Thursday,21 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)
Thursday,21 February, 2019
Issue 1392, (3 - 9 May 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Infrastructure failings

The cabinet took forecasts of more unstable weather very seriously following the havoc caused by recent heavy rains, writes Ahmed Morsy


Infrastructure failings

Prime Minister Sherif Ismail headed an emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday to discuss plans to deal with dust storms and heavy rains which had been forecast for Monday and Tuesday.

During the meeting — attended by the ministers of irrigation and local development and the head of the Meteorological Authority — Ismail ordered all governors via a video conference to respond rapidly to any emergencies that might arise during the unstable weather.

Many families were also keen to know what plans were being put in place, fearing a repeat of the havoc of the previous week when heavy rainfall caused flooding and brought traffic to a standstill.

In New Cairo, one of the worst hit areas, highways were closed, including sections of the Cairo Ring Road. Many streets in New Cairo turned into rivers, and in some places parked cars were almost completely submerged. The ground floors and garages of many building were flooded.

New Cairo lies east of the capital and comprises high-end real estate. The average price per square metre starts from LE10,000 in compounds, and LE7,000 in other areas of the suburb.

Residents of the district criticised the government’s crisis management, venting their anger on social media, posting photos and videos of damaged property and flooded streets.

In response to the tidal wave of complaints Prosecutor-General Nabil Sadek instructed the Public Funds Prosecution to investigate the causes of the flooding and the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) to prepare a report on the way state bodies had dealt with the heavy rainfall.

On Saturday the ACA suspended several officials at the New Cairo District Council. Minister of Housing and Urban Communities Mustafa Madbouli also decided to dismiss Mustafa Fahmi, head of New Cairo district.

Before leaving his office Fahmi told Al-Ahram Weekly the district had acted to deal with the floods from the first moment, something residents deny.

Infrastructure failings

According to Fahmi, “when the rains began power was cut off in some areas leading to widespread failure in pumping stations within the sewage network which resulted in the accumulation of rainwater in the streets and delays in getting rid of it through the sewage network.”

In the absence of a separate rainwater drainage system the sewage network is the only way to dispel excessive rainwater.

President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said on his official Facebook page that he “completely understands the suffering that was felt by some Egyptians as a result of the rains that fell in an unexpected and unusual way over the past two days”.

An ACA statement appeared to accept Fahmi’s explanation for what happened, noting that there were substantial failures of pumps, generators, fire networks and some central control panels that operate the sewage network. But the statement also criticised the management of the ensuing crisis and the lack of coordination between the ministries of housing, electricity, transport and the governorate of Cairo to mitigate its impact.

Ahmed Mourad, professor of urban planning at Al-Azhar University, says much of the damage was a result of the failure to take topography into account when New Cairo was built. “Despite the presence of gradients and depressions no spillways were made to handle flash floods,” Mourad told the Weekly, and some valleys intersect with major roads.

“There was clearly inadequate coordination between city planners, those responsible for designing the road network and others responsible for the sewage network,” said Mourad.

Sewage networks, he points out, are of particular significance given no city in Egypt has a separate network to drain off excess rainwater, and the cost of constructing a separate drainage system is unjustifiable given Egypt’s low rainfall rate.

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